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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
It had to happen, I guess. But I'm sorta glad I wasn't there. A company in Holland is retrieving cellulose from used toilet paper. Yes, it is recycling some of what people flush down the tubes into a second life as saleable cellulose fiber.

A company named CirTec, in the Netherlands, has premiered the operation of its Cellvation installation, which will recover about 400 kilograms--that's 880 pounds--of cellulose a day from raw sewage. Most of that cellulosic fiber comes from used toilet paper. The cellulose produced by the project has already been used in the production of a cycle path. And a part of the production is exported to England, where it is used as raw material for a bio composite.

In addition to marketable cellulose, the Cellvation process also offers the benefits of COD removal and reducing the cost of sludge dewatering and disposal.

Research elsewhere has shown that the primary sludge from waste treatment plants contains a considerable amount of cellulose--about 20% of volume, based on suspended solids, because of the discharge of toilet paper. In the treatment of primary sludge containing this much cellulose, residual solids with levels of cellulose as high as nearly 70% could be obtained.

It has long been recognized that waste streams contain high amounts of potentially useful stuff. Sewage sludge has been mined for electricity production, fertilizer, fish food and fuel--particularly cellulosic ethanol. The latter product is getting a great deal of attention from municipalities with municipal solid waste disposal problems. But hardly anybody--except for a handful of Dutch scientists--is thinking about recycling used toilet paper from municipal liquid waste streams. Used toilet paper. Can you imagine it?

Chuck Swann is Senior Editor of Paperitalo Publications.

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